Postmedia sold its soul long before the “energy war room” revelation

Former UCP campaign director Nick Koolsbergen.

Should Albertans be surprised that Postmedia has hired Premier Jason Kenney’s former campaign director Nick Koolsbergen to lobby to become “involved in the government’s energy war room.” No, but they should be astonished that Canada’s largest newpaper chain felt it needed a lobbyist.

Vivian Krause.

Postmedia has been involved in the unofficial “energy war room” – her name is Vivian Krause – for years, providing the primary platform for spreading Krause’s conspiracy narrative about American charitable foundations like Tides and Rockefellers “launching” the Tar Sands Campaign in 2008. That narrative is now thoroughly discredited thanks to my Energi Media deep dive, “Debunked: Vivian Krause’s Tar Sands Campaign conspiracy narrative.”

Postmedia newspapers have been publishing her op-eds since at least 2012. Postmedia columnists have used her “research” unverified for just as long, judging by the long list of outraged columnists at the Calgary Herald, the Financial Post, the Vancouver Sun, and so on.

Arguably the worst is Licia Corbella, a Herald opinion writer and unabashed cheerleader for Krause’s “research.” Let’s take a closer look at one Corbella hot take – “Researcher exposes money trail behind U.S.-based campaign to kill the oilsands” – for an example of how Postmedia abandoned any pretense to reporting or verifying facts about this story.

During a January a speech at the Indigenous Energy Summit at the Grey Eagle Event Centre the “researcher extraordinaire,” Corbella’s description, warned the Indian Resource Council that if it purchases the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project from the Canadian government, it will inherit a foreign-funded opposition. The problem with Krause’s claim is that US foundation support for the Tar Sands Campaign fell to $1 million a year a year or two after former Premier Rachel Notley introduced the Climate Leadership Plan in late 2015, according to campaign coordinator Tzeporah Berman. This claim was supported by a number of other environmental groups who were involved.

Tzeporah Berman, Adjunct Professor of York University Faculty of Environmental Studies and works as a strategic advisor to a number of First Nations, environmental organizations and philanthropic foundations on climate and energy issues.

The flood of greenbacks financing that campaign is now a trickle.

Here’s another inaccuracy: “Krause, who pointed out the latest large donation to Corporate Ethics was made in May 2018.” Corbella is referring to the environmental campaign consulting firm run by American Michael Marx, who initially coordinated the Tar Sands Campaign. The problem with Krause’s claim is that Marx stepped back in 2011 and was succeed by Berman.

“When the foundations agreed to support the Tarsands Campaign they hired me because I had worked previously with several of the Canadian and US groups and was an experienced cross-border campaign director,” Marx wrote Energi Media in an email. “In 2011 we decided the work must be led by a Canadian and I stepped down to focus more on US oil issues.”

If Marx hasn’t been involved with the Tar Sands Campaign for the past seven years, why is a foundation payment to his firm last year relevant to Canadian pipeline projects? The obvious answer is that it isn’t.

This point by Corbella is laughable: “Could it be that the Rockefeller Fund cares less about the environment and more about ensuring that the U.S. can go on buying discounted Alberta oil?” When I say it’s laughable, I mean energy economist Ed Hirs of the University of Houston almost fell off his chair laughing when I asked him to comment on this Krause allegation that is absurd on its face.

“Her conclusion that [anti-pipeline activism] is economic protectionism for the benefit of the US is wrong,” Hirs said in an interview. “The Canadian crudes compete head-to-head with Venezuela and some of the other heavy crude resources from around the world like Saudi Arabia and Mexico. If there are interests unhappy with Canadian crude coming down to the United States, you have to look at the head-to-head competitors and that would include Saudi Arabia.”

Licia Corbella. Source: Youtube.

Krause claims, and Corbella mindlessly parrots, that Notley implemented the 100 megatonne oil sands emissions cap as a cap on bitumen production. This is patently false, as I explained in detail in a July 6, 2018 column, as well as additional interviews with oil sands executives in my book, The New Alberta Advantage: Technology, policy, and the future of the oil sands. The emissions cap idea emerged from 2014 and 2015 discussions between oil sands CEOs and environmental groups. Notley adopted it at their request.

A final glaring error from Corbella and Krause: “No other oil-producing jurisdiction faces the same kind of scrutiny that Alberta’s oil faces in this deceitful, ‘fake grassroots’ campaign.” Another patently false claim.

“If we think about the other big pipeline projects – Enbridge Line 3, Dakota Access, Keystone XL, TransWestern – all of them are being protested. Some more than others,” Professor Victor Flatt, an energy law expert from the University of Houston, told Energi Media in an interview. “Opposition [to pipelines] is going to happen in a free and democratic country. People are going to protest. Not even populist anti-climate actors like [President Donald] Trump can change that.”

Readers can read the deep dive for further examples – there are plenty – of Krause’s mistakes and misinterpretations.

A credible newspaper would never have let Corbella’s error-riddled, unverified nonsense run in the first place. Nor would it have published Krause over the years. And it probably would have published a retraction once the real story came to light. The Herald didn’t do that nor did the other Postmedia papers that regularly run Krause’s op-eds.

Postmedia has been running the “energy war room” on its editorial pages for years. Now that the Kenney government is dedicating $30 million per year to a government version, it’s no surprise that Postmedia wants to feast at the trough. One would think the new government would be eager to reward its good and faithful servent for those years of support.

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.